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Q&A: Linda Ronstadt

A rare interview with a reluctant subject

Linda Ronstadt, The Tonight Show

Linda Ronstadt performs on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Los Angeles, California, April 27th , 1995

Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Linda Ronstadt does very few interviews. In fact, she has not spoken to Rolling Stone in 12 years. See if you can guess why.

Your projects are very diverse. Does the start of each one feel different?

My new record, Feels Like Home, started with me and Emmylou Harris covering some of our more esoteric interests. We brought in Dolly Parton to make it a trio project, but my record company said they didn’t know if it would sell. I said, “We’ll figure out how to sell it, don’t worry about that.”

You could rent those bins on the street they use to sell newspapers.

[Pause] We said we’d get it done – television or whatever. Then it became apparent that Dolly was not going to be available. So we sadly decided to break the album up; Emmy took some tracks, and I took some tracks.

Of all the people whose songs you’ve covered, is there somebody whose writing is best suited for you?

George Gershwin. He writes for vocalists.

Would you have said that during the period when you were covering songs by people like the Eagles?

Yeah. They’re not vocal writers. They often write stuff to do while you’re waiting for the guitar player to do a solo. Because when that music went to playing in coliseums, all you could hear were guitars.

What was your reaction to the Eagles reunion?

I think they’re real good. They play great live, but I didn’t see any concerts because I don’t go to those kinds of places. I go to the opera. I go to the ballet. That’s about it.

What’s your home life like these days?

I go to the opera and the ballet.

I mean, where is home?

San Francisco.

What is a normal day for you?

I eat my breakfast and go about my day. Look, I don’t talk about my personal life. Anyway, with this record, I continued on my quest to bring it into some sort of modern context. Emmy and I had been working on a track. . . .

Do you ever just sit with Emmylou Harris and ask her to tell Gram Parsons stories?

I knew Gram so well. I lived the story. So anyway, Emmy and I decided to bridge the gap between the ’20s to now. The Tom Petty and Neil Young covers were deliberate attempts to make a modern record.

You’ve been through so many incarnations. Is there anything you look back on and say, “I shouldn’t have done that”?

I’ve never undertaken anything that I didn’t hear before I was 10 years old.

You did an album of New Wave covers.

I didn’t, really. I sang rock & roll songs that I found in Southern California from writers that I knew. I mean, I don’t know what New Wave means, to start with. I don’t think that’s a very accurate label.

I’m talking about your singing songs like “Girls Talk,” by Elvis Costello.

It was a song that was suggested to me. It sounded to me like a speeded-up Christmas carol, a youthful song. I wasn’t 48 then. It’s not a song I could relate to now. Whereas the Gershwin songs are forever. And a good Mexican song you can sing when you’re happy or sad.

Do you cry easily?


What’s the last movie you cried at?

I haven’t been to a movie in so long.

Are you saying you don’t leave the house unless you’re heading straight to the opera?

Well, I do go to the opera. I’m going tonight, in fact.

You don’t do a lot of bowling, do you?

No. And to get back to what I was saying, I sang those songs out of frustration with the kinds of songs that were being written at the time.

But wasn’t that your biggest commercial period?

We did very well, but I was very frustrated and bored musically.

Do you have a vice that worries you?

If I did, I certainly wouldn’t talk about it with you.

It could be totally innocent. It could be watching Regis and Kathie Lee.

I don’t watch Regis and Kathie Lee.

Well, there you go. . . . If you were giving a concert at Carnegie Hall, who would you like to see in the audience?

I don’t particularly like to perform. It’s not where I’m coming from. But it’s an unwritten rule for me that I don’t want to see the audience.

Is there a target audience you want to attract?

I think more about who I would like to have playing with me – people like Jim Keltner, David Lindley. I love David Lindley. He’s my cousin, and there’s no reason he would ever not be in my life personally and professionally. I like him, I like his wife.

Be careful, that was almost personal.

Well, he does have a very nice wife.

Is there any young artist in any genre that you’d like to work with?

I wouldn’t know where to start. I don’t know anything about it.

Is there anybody you can turn to? Do you have any children?

[Long pause] I’m not interested in that music. The radio holds no power for me. I rarely listen to things that happened after 1940. Unless it’s an extraordinary singer like Annie Lennox, who I think is the best female pop singer in the last 50 years.

Has there ever been something that you wanted to talk about that an interviewer didn’t bring up?

I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Come on, that’s too vague a question.

Have you always been this guarded?

I’m not guarded.

Excuse me?

I think it’s none of your business. That’s not exceptionally guarded. And people make stuff up all the time. People take things out of context and make things up.

So you’re saying that if I bring up your Satan worshiping that it would be an inaccuracy?

What? Are you into that?

Never mind. I think we’re done.

Good. I hope I’ve given you something to write about. 


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